FILIPINO workers are everywhere. They come in thousands at any given place in the world – with the exception of a few selective countries – and stay for as long as their contracts could hold.
A latest survey shows that there are now nearly five million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Their earnings abroad, which they diligently send to their family home, are now the main players in the Philippine government’s bid for a full economic recovery. The OFWs are their country’s number one dollar earners, funneling billions and billions of dollars each year to the mainstream of Philippine economy!
Time and again, the Philippine government tries to drumbeat the OFWs’ marked contribution to the country’s economy. The government officials, especially those who are periodically elected, have lately been vocal in their acceptance and recognition of the OFWs’ sacrifices abroad. They have even called the OFWs the “New Heroes” of the modern-day Philippines.
Two special government entities under the Department of Labor and Employment have long been established, namely: the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). In 1995, after that well-publicized hanging of a Filipina maid in Singapore, the Philippine Senate approved the ‘Magna Carta’ for overseas contract workers, supposedly, to protect and preserve the rights of OFWs. Over a year prior to that, a special representative of OFWs to the Congress was elected in the person of Omar Fajardo, himself, a long-time OFW in Saudi Arabia. Through his representation, the OFWs are now exempted from paying their annual income tax.
Some of the other privileges that the OFWs now enjoy since two or three years back are: a) exemption from paying travel tax; b) exemption from paying airport tax; c) enjoyment of a “$2,000-limit” duty free shopping at a specially created store near the Manila airport; d) processing of “Balik-Manggagawa” (returning workers) papers at the embassy or consulate office located at worksite; e) enjoyment of personal or business loan packages offered by OWWA and selected Philippine banks; f) free training and or business workshop/seminars for returning OFWs; g) free legal assistance for job-related disputes at worksite; h) enjoyment of a housing loan through membership to “PAG-IBIG Overseas Program”; i) medical assistance through membership to the government’s ‘Medicare’ program; and a lot others under the OWWA, which, includes, among others, insurance coverage.
In the years to come, it is predicted that more and more Filipinos would find jobs outside the Philippines. It is not only the lure and a now seemingly felt ‘prestige’ of working abroad which drives a Filipino worker out of his country; it is also, and most importantly, the need to earn better.
Author: Freda Editha O. Contreras
Published on: August 18, 1999